From her earliest years, writes Janet Messineo in her terrific new book Casting into the Light: Tales of a Fishing Life, she knew she wanted to be a great fisherman.

“I knew I was as capable as any man of catching and landing a large fish,” she writes. “It took many years to prove to myself and to the male-dominated fishing community that I could make this come true.”

Her first summer on the Vineyard was in 1966, and her book is both an affecting memoir of a decades-long and sometimes rocky love affair with the Island and an account of unlikely redemption.

Since the striped bass, Morone saxatilis, is the obsession and dream of Casting into the Light, it’s fitting that Ms. Messineo opens her book with an excursus on the animal itself, “the most prized migratory game fish in the Northeast.”

Striped bass, we’re told, have earned respect from anglers for their strength, their size, their wiles, and of course for how tasty they are on the dinner table. Striped bass spend most of their adult life in the open ocean, but juveniles live in freshwater estuaries for a few years before they head out into open water and begin their 40 years of annual migrations. Every year, when the temperature of Vineyard waters rises to 55 degrees, the striped bass return. . . and every year, fishing folk are there to greet them.

“Thoughts of fishing filled my mind, night and day,” Ms. Messineo simply states of her own introduction to this world of bass fishing. “This was the beginning of the end of a normal life for me.”

Casting into the Light tells the story of that alternate life in eloquent, funny and sometimes very moving prose. We meet Ms. Messineo when she’s a young girl living in the dying mill town of Lawrence. We learn of her early aimless discontent, her budding loves, her lapse into drugs and alcohol, her many friendships with fishing characters on the Vineyard, and we watch, almost without realizing it, as she becomes the master fisherman she’d always dreamed of being.

Her history with the Vineyard’s fishing seasons rolls out gradually in these chapters. “One late October in the mid-1980s, an immense school of huge bluefish came into Lobsterville,” she writes of one such season. “The air was thick with a fishy odor and you could see the oil slicks all over the surface of the water”.

Each April, she recalls, the countdown begins until the striped bass return. Ms. Messineo recounts her impatience, waiting for the shadbush to bloom — the sign that alewives will soon be returning, and soon after, the bass that feed on them.

As she’s already told her readers, some of those bass could be formidable opponents, sometimes over 40 pounds. Casting into the Light gives readers a viscerally immediate sense of what such uneven combat is like. “Believe me, when you are in the surf, there is no doubt that you are battling a fish of that size,” she writes. “It’s a little like suddenly being hooked to the bumper of a VW Bug going 50 miles per hour.”

The book roams all over the Vineyard, from the rips at Wasque Point on Chappaquiddick to the Gay Head Cliffs at Aquinnah to Long Beach in Squibnocket. A cast of colorful fishermen fill the pages, passing Ms. Messineo at sunset as she makes ready to enter the surf, or at dawn when she’s wearily ready to make her way home. Bass fishing means night fishing. As one of those colorful fishermen grouses, “daytime fishermen are not fishermen.”

Ms. Messineo is at her strongest when she’s evoking the oddly internal dimension of her passion. Her book is liberally sprinkled with spooky moments that find her alone and waist-deep in a midnight surf she can only see in glimpses from the flashlight slung around her neck. Readers who haven’t been bitten by the bass-fishing obsession will marvel that anybody would voluntarily leave their nighttime rooms and venture out into the still chilly April night at all, much less wade into the black ocean. Those readers will experience a delicious shiver every time this author suddenly feels what she calls the heebie-jeebies.

“I’ve had some nights when, cloaked in darkness, especially under the new moon, I’ve felt the hairs on the back of my next stand straight up,” she writes of such occasions. “Occasionally, my imagination still gets the best of me when I hear the wind rustling through the trees, rats or skunks scampering back and forth, or an occasional deer running full speed on the beach behind me.”

Casting into the Light conscientiously fills out the trappings of a standard-issue fishing book. There are many pictures of happy fishermen heaving their catches up for the camera; there are tales that strain the credulity of the rubes in the audience; there are favorite recipes. But categorizing this as a fishing book would be doing it a disservice.

At its heart, this is a book about renewal. It will fill you with hope — whether the alewives are running or not.

On Sunday, August 4 at 3:40 p.m., Janet Messineo will participate in a discussion with Warren Doty.